Robotic Jellyfish to Swim Underwater for Surveillance

April 2, 2013, By Sanjeev Ramachandran

Military surveillance means unmanned stealth drones and little robots on wheels that are typically used for air and ground based surveillance. Jump into the water and you could meet a robotic jellyfish, courtesy of the US Navy.

The Virginia Tech College of Engineering has been entrusted by the US Navy with the task of developing an autonomous robotic jellyfish.

The Office of Naval Research has offered a five year grant to the college and the project has been progressing for over an year now.


If you were to walk into a lab in Virginia Tech’s Durham Hall, you will find a tank containing 600 gallons of water. The tank serves as the foundation where researchers are trying to find out how a jellyfish functions so that those movements can be applied to a robotic version.

A prototype of the robotic jellyfish, roughly the diameter of a man’s hand, was unveiled last year in the lab, and it was called Robojelly. Now a second version has surfaced under the name of Cryo.

Cryo is tall, at 5 foot 7 inches in length and weighs 170 pounds. This robotic jellyfish has a set of central core components encased in a waterproof shell, which is connected to eight moving arms.

A large and soft piece of white silicon is draped over the main core shell and the flexible silicone touches each of the arms. This constitutes a propulsion system- the arms and the silicone- and it mimics a jellyfish’s action of movement.

The project isn’t over yet, as there is still work to be done. In order to make the jellyfish autonomous, the on-board nickel metal hydride battery, which currently gives around 4 hours of life, needs to be enhanced.

Three years of the grant money is left, which should be enough time for the team to perfect the robotic jellyfish. Let’s wait and see how Cryo will emerge, and what its applications will be.

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